The church isn’t a building it’s a way of life

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But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. Luke 14:13

It’s common to see a parade of wheelchairs being pushed the few blocks to the church from the nursing home and rehabilitation center down the street.

Once the parade strolls and rolls into the building, the wheelchair bound get seats front and center.

With arms raised they worship.  Boy do they worship.

I can learn a few things from their abandoned style.  Wholly free, carefree, free indeed.

Bound by their chairs physically but free in the Spirit.

I have observed this group and worshiped along side of them for several weeks now.

Then there’s the homeless people, from the inner city, whom can catch a ride on the church bus that travels through the city offering rides.

I’ve been in awe watching them worship too, some with arms raised, some with tears streaming down their faces, some with expressions of joy, some with shouts of joy and others more contemplative.

I listened to conversations with them afterwards.  They expressed gratefulness for being accepted and included many with tears.

Then their stories.  Why, how, when.  Some talked about church growing up and how worship was for them back in those days.

Yes, some grew up going church and then…

I listen.  I see.   I’m touched and I learn.

Many in the church know the names of the homeless and extend friendship.  When the pastor announced  that one of the men passed away on the streets one week I could hear the care, the grief and the loss in his words.

On Super Bowl Sunday the church gathered together for a Party.  That’s common.  Many churches gather their flock together all over the U.S. on that day to watch the game, eat snacks and cheer for their teams.   They party together.

This one was different.  The parishioners received an invitation to serve.  That’s right.  They were throwing a party and the guests of honor were the homeless.  A T.V., the game, a meal and a blessing–were all part of the evening.

I listen.  I see.  I’m touched and I learn.

These people, my extended Spiritual family welcomed Bob and me in when we wandered through their doors looking for a place to worship one Sunday and we stayed for almost 3 months.

Our last Sunday with them will be on Palm Sunday and then we will head back to our home church.

Last week two wheelchair bound worshipers were on stage with the praise team helping to lead worship.

Monthly the worship team from church heads down the street to the nursing home and rehabilitation center to enjoy a worship service together.  The gifts and talents exploded from the residence as some came out of the shadows to sing.

Now occasionally they will help lead worship at church.  They will become part of the team.

I listen.  I see.  I’m touched and I learn.

In the wake of the recent news reports when all seems so overwhelming and almost hopeless, I’m brought back to truth, just the simple truth that there’s still hope, love and a way to live differently to impact others one soul at a time.

As I approach Easter, it’s that message that I want to carry long after I have to say goodbye to this band of Jesus followers–the Easter people–the people of this church that Bob and I have grown to love and admire.

They don’t just go to church they are the church and they declare that statement weekly at the end of each service.  Their words resonate with me…”We don’t just go to church we are the church!”  And they don’t just say it, they live it.

Blessings!

Nancy ❤

No Lists, Just Love

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He’s making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice, Santa Claus is coming to town…

Most of us have heard those familiar words many times.  The nice get a gift and the naughty, well…they don’t get anything or, if they’re lucky, they get a lump of coal.

As my husband and I were traveling down the expressway last week, my eyes caught a sign outside of a church facing the cars that were driving by.

 SANTA ISN’T THE ONLY ONE MAKING A LIST!

“What?!?  Did I read that right?  Santa isn’t the only one making a list!  That’s the message the church is communicating to those passing by,” I told my husband.

On our next drive down that same expressway yesterday, I stayed alert watching for the sign.  I read it carefully thinking that maybe I was mistaken the first time but I wasn’t.  There in bold letters fastened to the large sign of the church were the words:

SANTA ISN’T THE ONLY ONE MAKING A LIST!

“If you want a gift, you better be good, because Santa is making a list and checking it twice and he’s gonna find out who is naughty and nice,” many parents sing the song and retell the story year after year.

It’s all in fun and I don’t think there’s one kid, that I know of anyway, that has been harmed or traumatized by the story of Santa.

But the message on the church sign?  I’m not so sure about that one.

Is that the message that they want the world to accept?  The message that God is making a list of all our wrongs and that we better be good or He won’t love us?  Is their message saying that we have to perform, do good works, clean up our act, obey the rules, or else?

I know there are thousands of good churches that communicate truth with love and I attend one.  I’m not implying that I know exactly the motive behind the sign but the perception comes across as God is making a list so if you’re naughty you better watch out!

We can shut ourselves up inside brick structures to make us feel safe.  We can hide behind programs, methods, procedures to puff ourselves up and think we’re secure because we’re us inside and not them outside.

We can point out the wrongs in others, forgetting who we are (or who we once were) and erect barricades of false security, we can have rules that make us harsh judges or we can have LOVE.

There in the manger on that quiet night long ago LOVE was born.  When we were the naughtiest LOVE came for us.  Jesus was born to die that we may live.  He took our punishment so we wouldn’t have to.

He knew our list of wrongs, all too well, and left His throne of glory and came down to rescue us.

We receive the gift; the greatest gift when we deserve it the least–we don’t have to be good enough to receive it.  All we have to do is accept it.

That’s the beauty of the gift.  God wipes our list clean in one swift stroke and writes across it PAID IN FULL.  Then slowly but surely we’re transformed in a way that rules could never accomplish. 

When we have LOVE, know LOVE, and extend LOVE our pointing fingers will come down.  Then the greatest gift of Christmas, who wrapped himself in love and is LOVE, can keep on giving…

Written by Nancy Janiga ©2014